The Sunday News
Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
THE Government has started working on modalities to compensate former white commercial farmers who lost land during the country’s agrarian reform programme on improvements they made on the farms with payments expected to be made before the end of this year, a Cabinet Minister said.
Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube said plans to compensate the farmers were at an advanced stage and further reaffirmed the Government’s position and commitment of ensuring the completion of the process this year.
“It is in the Constitution that we are going to compensate farmers. We allocated $53 million in the National Budget (for that purpose) and we are busy now looking for the farmers, the right names so that we can pay them off in the next few months,” he said.
Prof Ncube said the Government had reached an agreement pertaining to the compensation procedures.
“We have moved towards the grand agreement with farmers to conclude this issue and move on and support our agricultural sector. So the debate about not compensating farmers is misplaced we have to compensate the farmers it is in the Constitution,” he said.
Last week it was reported that at least 900 white former commercial farmers who lost land during the land reform programme had registered for compensation.
“We have about 900 farmers who have responded to the call and registered. We are now verifying with the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement. Those people will be notified of the final outcome around the 10th of May and working with the ministry, payment modalities will be known,” Commercial Farmers’ Union director Mr Ben Gilpin was quoted as having said.
Prof Ncube, as part of ensuring improved production in the country’s agricultural sector, said there was a need for banks to start accepting farmers’ 99-year leases to enable them to enhance their productivity at farms.
The 99-year lease can be used as collateral for borrowing from financial institutions and can be registered at the Deeds Registry.
“I still hear bankers have issues with the 99-year leases please finalise that . . . I don’t know what the hold-up is with bankers all I can say is that please help us so that we can close that issue of 99 year leases and move forward,” said Prof Ncube.
Despite getting 99-year leases from the Government, farmers are still struggling to get access to credit on the basis of these documents because most financiers still deem them as not legally acceptable.